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|Saturday, 07 April 2012 13:49|
- May He be the centerpiece of your Easter
WHILE the Western World remains mystified by the events that surround the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, there is enough historical religious evidence that points to this most cataclysmic event. The Hebraic mindset was conditioned by their sacred texts, which sought to accomplish two things. One, to provide atonement for sins annually through the sacrifice of animals, and two, provide a concrete basis for the establishment and understanding of the perfect sacrifice that would be revealed in time by God.
The Day of Atonement must have been a sobering occasion. Once a year, each Israelite was reminded of the serious nature of sin and of God’s grace in dealing with it. Moses’ incisive description of this remedy forms the basis for understanding its relevance and necessity to the ancient generations and to our postmodern world.
The word “atonement” derives from a Hebrew word, ‘kippurim’ , which means “to cover over”; which also conveys the idea of covering our sin by making an equivalent payment. In Leviticus 16:29-34, the depth and scope of this annual sacrifice reminded the people that the regular sacrifices made in the tabernacle were not enough to cleanse them from sin. This nationwide atonement for sin required several steps.
First, the high priest washed carefully and dressed himself in white linen garments rather than his usual ceremonial robes (16:4). He slaughtered a bull for himself and the other priests, and then entered the Holy Place, the inner sanctuary, inside the tabernacle. This was the only time during the year that he was allowed to enter that part of the tabernacle. Inside, he sprinkled the blood of the bull on the mercy seat to make atonement for himself and the other priests (16:11-14). The next sacrifice was a male goat. It was offered on behalf of the people, and its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. After these procedures, a second goat, known as the scapegoat, was led to the edge of the camp, where the high priest laid his hands on its head and confessed over it all the sins of the nation. The goat was then driven into the wilderness as a symbol of the people’s sins being carried away (16:20-22). Finally, the bodies of the slaughtered animals were taken outside the camp and burned (16:27). This is one of the most compelling illustrations of what is theologically called Typology. “A careful study of the OT reveals elements that are fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah (who is the antitype); i.e. there are persons, events or things in the OT that prefigure or foreshadow, in some way, Jesus Christ in the New Testament.”
In this context, the Western mindset is able to appreciate the relevance and applicability of Isaiah’s Messianic writings. Isaiah thunders, “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed . . . the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6).
For centuries, the faithful looked forward to the arrival of the promised Messiah with bated breath. After a period of four hundred years of inter-testament quiet, the silence was broken with the arrival of and announcements by John the Baptist. The timeline of the Messiah was imminent. It is not without significance that Jesus’ arrival was during the dominant rule of the Romans. Their empire established and facilitated a network of communications, roadways, bridges and efficient travel by sea. This was necessary for the prorogation of the Gospel. Over and over, in the Gospels, Jesus postulated and demonstrated that His mission went beyond the house of Israel.
The undisputed facts of His crucifixion, burial and resurrection were substantiated by the empty tomb, the message of the angels to the women who visited where he was buried the first Sunday following His death, and by the clumsy efforts of officialdom, in order to cover up the fact of the resurrection by bribing the soldiers, is carefully documented by Matthew 28:11-15.
The coming, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ are put in perspective by the writer of the book of Hebrews. He postulated, “For Christ has not entered the holy place made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world, but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).
Unlike the sacrifices in the Old Testament, Christ’s was “once for all …” (Heb. 10:10). Therefore, His sacrifice, and resurrection were necessary, sufficient and superior. As we celebrate His resurrection in the twenty-first century, we may contemplate the assertion that “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).
This occasion should not only remind us of his sacrifice, but of the enormous provisions He has made for all humanity. May He be the centerpiece of your Easter.
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